As Shocking Pinks, Christchurch, New Zealand's Nick Harte released three albums in two years. The first, 2004's Dance the Dance Electric, got him noticed by DFA Records; Mathematical Warfare and Infinity Land were both issued by the legendary Kiwi label Flying Nun in 2005. Songs from these later albums make up Shocking Pinks, Harte's DFA debut, which is unexpected, considering that Harte's debut album was more eclectic and electronic -- more in keeping with the DFA's previous output, in other words -- while his Flying Nun albums owe more of a debt to that label's classic bands and My Bloody Valentine's abrasive pop instincts. Only "Cutout"'s hypnotic groove and the moody, percussive "Smokescreen" hint at any dance leanings (ditto for the remixes by heavy-hitters such as Eluvium and the Glimmers on the singles leading up to Shocking Pinks' release). The rest of the comp shows off Harte's way with love songs that are heartbroken, aloof, and even a little arrogant. "This Aching Deal," "End of the World," and "Second Hand Girl" are full of confessions and recriminations tucked safely away in blankets of distortion and tape hiss. Harte's wispy voice can barely hold the emotions in his music, whether it's "How Am I Not Myself"'s petulance ("I'd rather be a retard than to be your motherfuckin' dad") or "Girl on the Northern Line"'s slow-motion yearning. It's easy to hear why Harte's band name was inspired by Pretty in Pink's teen angst; he can sing "fuck" and sound completely innocent, or "you make me feel bad" like it's the most romantic thing ever. Shocking Pinks' brittle, noisy production also harks back to the golden age of college rock in the late '80s and early '90s; in the best possible way, it often sounds like an ancient cassette that has spent years buried in the glove box. "Blonde Haired Girl" shows that the My Bloody Valentine that inspired Harte wasn't Loveless' meticulous layers, but the scrappy sonic free-for-alls of Isn't Anything -- the song's drum rolls are right out of "Feed Me with Your Kiss." Shades of Eric's Trip and fellow college rock revivalists Marmoset hover around shambling, vulnerable songs like "Victims," "Emily," and "I Want U Back." And, in classic indie fashion, Harte balances out the rough-edged but piercing beauty of some songs with others that take willful tangents, such as "Yes! No!" Crucially, though, it doesn't feel like Harte is mimicking his influences so much as finding his own ways of embodying them. Even if it tends to portray Harte as a more straightforward artist than he actually is, Shocking Pinks is an intriguing introduction for listeners who want to catch up with his ever-growing body of work.
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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares